Frequently asked questions regarding estate planning and probate administration…
Why do I need a will?
If you die without a will, the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will determine how your property is distributed. You may lose the opportunity to distribute the assets you worked hard to gain in the manner you think is best. A will can also direct who becomes guardian of minor children, and how a minor's assets should be managed until they are old enough to manage them on their own. These are not decisions to be made lightly, or leave to chance. Retain control over your assets and protect your loved ones with a will, and make sure to review the document periodically to ensure it continues to represent your wishes.
What is a living will?
A living will helps you retain control over medical decisions in the event you are not able to make a decision for yourself. A living will can help direct your treatment providers and family members regarding whether you wish to receive certain life-sustaining measures, surgeries, or whether you simply want medical intervention to keep you pain free. This document can greatly reduce the stress of an already painful time for your loved ones in the event you are in a terminal condition.
I am the Executor of a family member's will. What do I have to do?
As Executor of a will, you will need to locate the original will, and formally open the estate at the courthouse. In Pennsylvania, there are certain requirements for publishing the estate publicly, as well as sending notice to any beneficiaries named in the will. As executor, you will need to gather all of the decedent's financial information, so that you can ensure any debts are paid, an Inventory of the estate can be prepared, and any issues with beneficiaries can be handled. You will open an estate account, so that bills can be paid and certain assets may be liquidated. A probate attorney can help you with all of these tasks, as well as the preparation of the estate tax return. As Executor, you are entitled to claim a fee for your services.